These days, the pressure is on for still photographers to jump into the motion game. This change to the photo world is one of the biggest since digital replaced film. Many commercial and editorial photographers are now scrambling to learn new skills, equipment, and editing techniques. Here at Wonderful Machine, we have a number of photographers who’ve made the plunge into motion and have even added our first production company—808 Inc.—to our roster. We’ve also dabbled a bit ourselves recently with a stop-motion portfolio edit video.
Since more and more photographers and art buyers are asking about motion, I decided to pick the brains of Chad Windham, Martin Sundberg, and Eric Kiel who you’ll find on the USA section of our site, as well as newcomer to motion, Escapista, who you’ll find on the International section of our site:
How did you first get into motion?
Chad Windham: I started out by shooting stills for a film shoot. The director liked what I was getting and asked me if I wanted to shoot his next short for him. I said sure. That was three years ago. Since then I’ve shot two feature films, three short film, three music videos, two television shows and multiple advertising web and broadcast pieces.
Martin Sundberg: My first foray into motion was when the 5d Mark II shipped. At the time I had never really considered a pursuit in to motion work but I wanted know how a still vision could be translated in to the moving picture. Within a week I set up an extensive test shoot filming triathletes to cover the variety of conditions I shoot in… water, road, trail… and from there just kept going.
Escapista: I began trying to tell stories through “joined-together” photographs in a cinematic way, using a character I created, called “Mr. Lonely“.
What are the films you’re shooting being used for?
Chad Windham: Typically, we shoot advertising.
Martin Sundberg: A typical use for my work will be for a corporate presentation, usually a piece to precede a CEO keynote, a conference or even the materials to supplement a TED presentation. Recently, I filmed a project for Apple entitled “A New Day.” This was used as an opening presentation for an annual gathering of store managers for apple retail around the world and taking place at the Orpheum Theater in LA.
Eric Kiel: TV commercials and web content.
What’s been your favorite motion project to date?
Chad Windham: The Carrie Rodriguez music video and “The Man That I Was,” a feature that was shot in Los Angeles and Dallas and on the road in between. It went into production two months after the Canon 5D Mark ll came out. It was quite a challenge but turned out the be a really really pretty film.
Eric Kiel: We are currently in post with my favorite piece so far. It’s our 4th TV commercial (30 second spot) for a Chicago agency. This one is a triumphant story of a competitive cyclist that had a sudden stroke and is back on his bike. It will be aired in July.
Escapista: This series, that I called “Self-portraits of Someone Else“, has become in its simplicity, my favorite motion work.
How is estimating for a motion job different than still?
Chad Windham:Basically I look at it as two separate jobs. If you try to cram both video and still into the same time you would have a still or video shoot both parts are going to suffer. I find that doing both adds about 1/3 to the production time spent. There is also more crew and more post work.
Martin Sundberg: There are more players to consider. Working closely with a producer really ensures nothing is missed. I’m still trying to understand usage, as it is very different than print licensing, but most of the time I seem to be conforming to a model that has been in place for a long time.
Eric Kiel: There are differences. The main three being creative fees (director vs. photographer), usage fees (all time inclusive with film), and the post production (coloring and editing). Obviously our film production team has a slightly bigger footprint and is more involved than a commercial stills shoot.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned while doing film?
Chad Windham:It’s not just an add-on to a job. It’s a separate part of the job. It takes a lot more equipment and time than a still shoot. It’s going to cost more and needs to be estimated accordingly. As far as the actual shoot goes, more is never enough. B-roll, b-roll, b-roll. You have to give you editor something to cut to and from. Shoot lead ins and outs.
Martin Sundberg: Set yourself up with a great team. When I started in motion I chose to hire a team that came from the motion industry. Camera assistants that understood how to set up the rigs, pull focus, and knew the challenges before I did. Grip teams that understood camera movements and lighting and getting everyone up to speed before the first sunrise shoot. Shots can take longer to set up so the extra effort on the front end really pays off.
Eric Kiel: The most valuable thing I learned early on was to completely separate the still shoot from the motion shoot.
Escapista: I’m just beginning. There’s so much to learn!